The guy who came in from the cold

For the past few months I’ve been get­ting my exer­cise indoors. While I have got­ten on to a tread­mill a time or two, I’m sor­ry to report that I haven’t been run­ning much at all. Most of my run­ning has been done in mild weath­er and frankly I’m a lit­tle bit afraid of run­ning in cold weath­er. But I see peo­ple out there run­ning every day in 20°F to 30°F (-7°C to ‑1°C for my friends out­side the US) weath­er. So I ought to be able to do it too.

I’ve run out­doors three times in the last three months. Two were orga­nized races: the Troy Turkey Trot 10K on Thanks­giv­ing morn­ing and the Sarato­ga First Day 5K on Jan­u­ary 1st. The Turkey Trot was 32°F (0°C) and First Day was maybe 35°F (2°C). I bought long run­ning pants in antic­i­pa­tion of my first less-than-toasty run at the Turkey Trot, and wore a long-sleeved hood­ie. One nice bit of schwag from the Turkey Trot was a pair of gloves. I wore those as well.

The back of a hand in a multicolored knit glove. Most of the glove is an olive green. The index finger is black, middle finger is red, ring finger is orange, and the pinkie is yellow. On the back of the glove is a graphic which reads "Troy, NY Turkey Trot".
Troy Turkey Trot run­ning gloves

The Turkey Trot was fun and that was encour­ag­ing. The Sarato­ga First Day 5K was a lit­tle warmer and quite sun­ny so I didn’t even wear the long pants or the gloves, though I did wear long sleeves. That might have been too much, as my face was clear­ly quite flushed at the end of the race. I needn’t have wor­ried about being too cold.

Smiling man with red face and a goatee wearing athletic clothing. In the background is the finish line of a race with a banner that reads, "Saratoga First Day 5K" and "Saratoga Springs, New York".
At the fin­ish of the Sarato­ga First Day 5

Even after these two suc­cess­ful ven­tures into cold­er tem­per­a­ture run­ning, I’ve been hes­i­tant to get out there in the cold. But I’ve reg­is­tered for races ear­ly this year, includ­ing the Helder­burg to Hud­son Half Marathon in April and the Elec­tric City 10K in March. No amount of strength train­ing with weights is going to get me into form for run­ning, and there’s a non-zero chance that one or both of those races could have cold weather.

Yes­ter­day I decid­ed to get out there and go for a run in 26°F (-3°C) weath­er in the after­noon when the sun was still out but not very high in the sky. It was a dif­fi­cult run. Almost imme­di­ate­ly I felt my lungs and wind­pipe start to hurt from the cold air. There was a lit­tle bit of wind and that didn’t help any. I kept it slow (and boy was I ever slow) but it didn’t seem to help. I inhaled through my nose as much as pos­si­ble to keep my wind­pipe from freez­ing, but I can’t take air in as quick­ly through my nose so I kept revert­ing to inhal­ing through my mouth to keep from feel­ing like I was get­ting starved for oxygen.

At about two-thirds of a mile in, I decid­ed that two miles would be plen­ty and decid­ed on a path that would loop me back toward home. It was a real­ly uncom­fort­able push but at a lit­tle over a mile and a half I had a deci­sion whether to turn left and go back home. I decid­ed I could do a lit­tle bit more and went straight, on a path where there would be plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to press for­ward or turn back.

In the end I did a nice tour of the neigh­bor­hood, at almost four miles (my run­ning track­er app says 3.87 miles but also dis­plays a warn­ing that GPS dis­tance is 4.4 miles.) It was a very slow run but I stayed up on my toes the whole way and didn’t take a walk break except once to slow down so I could get my phone out of my pock­et to take pic­tures for this post.

When I got back home I felt like I’d had a ter­ri­ble asth­ma attack, and went right for my inhaler. Even back in my twen­ties cold air would give me some issues with breath­ing, so I prob­a­bly should remem­ber to use my inhaler before a run when the weath­er is less than toasty.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the dis­com­fort in my lungs has per­sist­ed all through the day and even the next day I’m a bit wheezy. It’s gone on long enough that I hope it is only the after­af­fects of breath­ing too much cold air. I sure don’t want to get sick.

This should be encour­ag­ing. While the run was uncom­fort­able, I got through it and didn’t have to stop. It got eas­i­er as I went along. I was pret­ty sweaty when I got home so the light pants and long sleeves plus gloves seem to be most­ly ade­quate for the mid-twen­ties. I might want to get a hat for cold days but it’s not real­ly my head I’m con­cerned about and I wouldn’t want to be over­heat­ed. Maybe just some­thing to cov­er my ears.

So it is encour­ag­ing. Most­ly. It’s great to know that what seems impos­si­ble at the start often turns into some­thing that can be over­come. At the same time, it was a pret­ty rough start and I’m still feel­ing the after­math. Maybe this is some­thing I can get bet­ter at, both in the sense that I’ll get used to it and in the sense that there are prob­a­bly things I can learn to min­i­mize the dif­fi­cul­ty in future cold-weath­er runs.

I have to remem­ber this as a vic­to­ry, and just remem­ber how much I liked it. Even if I didn’t.

Leave a Reply